The Chosunilbo JNS/Multi-Bits/Getty Photographs
15 years later, the Okay-pop group Girls’ Generation remains to be making music and stays iconic within the business. Since they got here onto the scene, the then 9-member group (Taeyeon, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, Seohyun and Jessica) laid the groundwork for a lot of subsequent Okay-pop teams and even protest actions. Visitor host Elise Hu discusses their legacy with tradition author and longtime Okay-pop fan Tamar Herman and Korean movie and tradition scholar Michelle Cho.
Y0u can hearken to the complete episode on the prime of the web page, on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. These excerpts have been edited for size and readability.
On their best-selling hit
HERMAN: The one [song] that everyone associates them with might be Gee. Gee is a music that begins off actually candy, has a spoken intro, after which it simply type of goes off. It is enjoyable, it is catchy, it is upbeat. It additionally confirmed the members’ distinctive vocals. The dance has you making a capital G together with your fingers. There have been a variety of visible and dance parts that have been very fashionable and crowd pleasing.
Okay-Pop generally, the singles are seen as an audiovisual expertise; you are not speculated to expertise it with out each other. It is type of like a musical. So a music video for Women’ Technology nearly all the time has one thing that is very distinct about it. So that you consider Gee and also you consider coloured skinny denims.
On the timing of their stardom
CHO: They mirrored what was occurring within the business. What got here earlier than 2006 to 2007 was an business that had successes however wasn’t systematizing a manufacturing mannequin. However the second era of Okay-Pop idols, which Women’ Technology is claimed to be [the vanguard] of, the business begins to systematize, taking younger hopefuls and placing them by means of idol faculty.
The opposite factor that was occurring was a redefinition of idols as aspirational but additionally performers which are conscious of followers with a extra accessible picture. That is influenced by the J-pop business, the place idols are individuals you possibly can go see and shake their fingers and speak to them. Precise contact in real-life is constructed into [Girls’ Generation’s] schedules.
On redefining woman teams
HERMAN: [Girls’ Generation] debuted in 2007, which is across the begin of YouTube’s international growth, and so they’re not the one Okay-Pop woman group from that period who actually bought a lift from it. They have been the primary nine-member Okay-Pop woman group, [and as part of that,] all people may discover somebody that they relate to.
On the criticism of Okay-pop idols being “factory-made“
CHO: I believe that Okay-Pop can get unfairly criticized for that notion that Okay-Pop idols are these empty shells and that nothing they do is genuine. I believe the explanation why they’re focused can vary from nefarious stereotypes about Asian our bodies being duplicitous or overseas or inscrutable. Or it may be the attachment individuals need to an thought of creative authenticity that is often solely anticipated or utilized to the western genius. Typically male artists are assumed to be completely genuine and clear and so they’re not doing any type of efficiency in any way, and that is clearly a fantasy and never true! So I believe anticipating to be entertained by celebrities with none artifice – that they are simply being themselves – is type of a foolish expectation. Each performer is performing, so I do not know why you’d all of the sudden have misgivings about how performative efficiency is if you’re taking a look at Okay-Pop.
On their debut music turning into a protest anthem
CHO: This originates with a protest that occurred at Ewha Ladies’s College in 2016. College students have been actually upset on the means that the administration had made adjustments to necessities and applications, and so they thought that they need to be heard as college students and as stakeholders. A bunch of about 300 college students assembled, and so they have been going through down the riot police despatched there to take away them. There have been over a thousand police confronting this a lot smaller group of girls. And so they begin singing [Into the New World].
This protest in 2016 led to the candlelight motion that ousted the president, and it was initiated by these younger ladies. The [protest] songs that you’d be singing are coming from figures which are usually not taken severely. That is why this music, and woman group songs generally, have change into an vital device for establishing solidarity in protest actions throughout Asia.
On whether or not Women’ Technology is empowering when embodying slender magnificence requirements
HERMAN: I believe it is difficult. Okay-pop is type of consultant of societal norms. I am not saying this in a nasty means, however I believe it’s extremely telling that in Women’ Technology there are three members (Yuri, Yoona and Seohyun) identified collectively because the Bermuda Triangle as a result of all of them look so related.
From a visible facet, there was simply an article from BuzzFeed that was taking a look at consuming dysfunction relationships amongst Okay-Pop followers and the way there is a huge neighborhood of followers shaped round this. These magnificence requirements mustn’t even be thought-about for the typical individual, as a result of that is not our day-to-day life.
Additionally you need to keep in mind that most of those Okay-Pop teams, male or feminine, they don’t seem to be those making the selections about what they seem like or what they’re singing. So there is a hierarchical background to all of this. It is actually terribly not empowering. However just a few years in the past, I spoke to one of many Women’ Technology members, Tiffany, and he or she all the time has had a status that she loves pink. She’s very girlish and he or she stated, ‘Folks instructed me, you are getting older, it’s best to cease sporting hair bows.’ And I used to be identical to, ‘Oh, I suppose I ought to… However I do not wish to… it is nearly like I do not wish to develop up. But in addition it is type of like I am grown up, I can do no matter I would like.’
[Tiffany] additionally was speaking about how she used to enter conferences and simply be like, ‘Oh, I suppose I can not say something.’ After which she realized at a sure level, ‘No, wait, we are the ones in entrance of the cameras and we are the stars. We must be main our personal route.’
On the importance of Women’ Technology nonetheless (principally) being collectively 15 years later
HERMAN: The truth that Women’ Technology has grown into their thirties collectively from youngsters is nearly surprising. It simply does not occur. Should you contemplate the counterparts who debuted with them, most of them are inactive. In [South] Korea, the Okay-Pop scene, there are contracts the place time span is often seven years. So Women’ Technology did need to undergo that when it was the seven-year interval, that is when Jessica left the group. So there’s been this dedication to their model past the preliminary stage already.
I believe with the ability to arrive on the scene, nonetheless keep related in an business and set the tempo for thus many different issues. Not each Okay-Pop group’s title finally ends up being prophetic, however it actually does really feel prefer it was Women’ Technology for this lengthy whereas.
This episode was produced by Janet Woojeong Lee, with engineering assist from Hannah Gluvna and Neal Rauch. It was edited by Jessica Placzek. You possibly can comply with us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and electronic mail us at [email protected]